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Tom Waugh makes sculptures from stone and marble that depict discarded, mass-produced objects. Plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and tin cans are squashed, crushed, and wrinkled, documenting the casual imprints of human use. Using the processes and techniques of classical marble carving, and paying close attention to form and surface detail, He achieves a high level of realism in his work.
Some of the sculptures are life-size, others are larger than life, and some appear, like fossils, emerging from the pristine rock. Materials are carefully chosen to achieve realism: white marble takes on the appearance of plastic or polystyrene, ironstone becomes rusty metal and Portland Stone is transformed into crumpled cardboard, rendering solid, immutable marble and limestone into the light malleable forms of discarded objects.
Despite the use of traditional materials and techniques, his work has tensions and contradictions: between classical and contemporary art; between temporality and permanence; and between humour and serious environmental and social issues. These contradictions can present a cognitive dissonance, challenging ideas of material value, and prompting a second look at the things we take for granted.
Running through his work is a desire to express mankind’s paradoxical relationship with the natural world. We are both destructive and dependent on nature, being at its mercy at the same time as seeking to control and manipulate it. His work is infused with the uncertainty and irony of humanity’s pursuit of progress, in the end, what is the purpose of this progress? Why are we doing this?